how to become a forester

What does a Forester do?

A forester is a professional that specializes in forests and provides a variety of assistance in forestry and conservation. Some foresters work commercial aspects of forestry and take inventory on how much wood can be harvested and determine costs. In contrast, other foresters may protect wildlife habitats and ways to foster new forest growth.

How to Become a Forester

To become a forester, employers look for those with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in forestry or similar fields such as agricultural science, rangeland management, or environmental science. Coursework includes classes in ecology, wildlife management, forest resources, biology, or environmental science. Advanced training also provides technology tools such as Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, remote sensing, and various computer modeling. Some college programs offer internship opportunities that allow you to gain hands-on experience before graduation. More than often, this can lead to career placement after graduation. 

Once earning a bachelor’s degree, you can also continue your education or gain a certification through the Society of American Foresters (SAF). You can earn this by providing activity documentation, devoted specifically to forestry, including a résumé to demonstrate that professional experience. The areas required are Resource Assessment, Management Planning, Stakeholder Analysis and Relations, and Execution of Management Plan. Please note that there is also an option for you to obtain a certification if you have not earned a bachelor’s degree, but you must have more than five years of experience in this career field first. You can learn more from SAF’s Certification Requirements webpage (link opens in a new tab).

Job Description of a Forester

Job descriptions and tasks vary for a forester depending on the type of work you do. For example, a Procurement foresters purchase timber from local forest owners and negotiate sales. This typically involves assessing the inventory and location of available wood on the property. They then appraise the monetary value, negotiate the purchase, and write up a purchasing contract. Other foresters take a different approach and may evaluate a forest to determine harvesting and its impact. This includes inspecting the forest’s health and providing a recommendation on when to harvest and methods to replace the trees by replanting others. 

Some foresters concentrate heavily on conservation and the ecosystem of a forest. These professionals work to protect the wildlife, water sources, and soil in a forest as all aspects of a forest ecosystem rely on one another to maintain a healthy balance. 

There are also urban foresters, whose focus is on larger cities and the managing of urban trees. They look at the quality-of-life issues, including air quality, shade, and stormwater runoff.

As you can see, there are a variety of routes one can take. However, no matter what, a forester’s work is outdoors, and all foresters must comply with environmental regulations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most foresters work for federal or state governments. They regular work workdays and their days can be physically demanding. Foresters work in all types of weather and often walk long distances through dense woods and underbrush to carry out their work. Therefore, common injuries include insect bites, exposure to poisonous plants, and other natural hazards.

Free Teacher and Student Resources

The state of Oregon has a list of free resources for educators on their Forestry for Teachers webpage. For students, the U.S. Forestry Service (link opens in a new tab) has a list of fun activities and learning resources on their kid’s page.

Related Careers to Research:

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Conservation Scientists and Foresters and Occupational Employment and Wages

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